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Buried In The Sewer

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One of the saddest accidents that has occured in Ann Arbor in many years cast a gloom over the closing hours of New Year's day in this city. Two faithful workers on the sewers were buried alive in the trench. The accident occurred on the premises of Heinzmann & Laubengayer, between Huron and Washington streets, at about three o'clock in the afternoon. This particular spot was not considered particularly dangerous. The trench here was about seventeen feet deep. The sewer tile was laid to within fifteen feet of the spot and George Henry was in the bottom of the trench finishing digging out the bottom. It was his business to put the trench down to grade. Richard Supple was driving down the curbing. The sand from behind the curbing came in at the bottom of the trench and Henry had just placed a fresh board in the hole at the bottom which Supple was driving down to keep the sand out. Supple was on a platform high enough to enable him to drive down the boards. He struck the board with a sledge when a crash was heard. Some one called get out. The sewer men ran. One bank caved in tilting the jack screws and the whole trench feil in, burying both Supple and Henry. Three men barely escaped with their lives. The work of rescuing the oned men was begun at once. All the men that could be handled were put at work. Electric lights were placed so as to aid the work and an immense crowd of spectators assembled who were kept back with difficulty from crowdingin the banks of the sewer. Just before midnight the body of Richard Supple was taken out and about an hour later the body of George Henry. Both men had an arm raised and from the position of their bodies had evidently been striving to getup out of the sewer. They had been caught between the planks and stringers of the curbing and death had probably been quick. The two men had no time to get out of the sewer after the crash came. The cave-in was the work of an instant. Richard Supple was of Irish descent. He came to this city from Pennsylvania some eight or ten years ago. For some time he worked for E. B. Hall. He was about 50 years of age and was a bachelor. He supported an aunt. He was a sober, industrious man and was known as an excellent workman. The funeral services were held in St. Thomas' church, Thursday. George Henry was acolored man, living in the fifth ward. He, too, was an industrious workman. He has a grown-up son in Detroit and has a wife. Coroner Clark held an inquest over the body of George Henry on Wednesday. The evidence indicated that the accident was unavoidable, at least so far as overseeing the work was concerned. The coroner's jury consisted of Fred Schmid, Jerome A. Freeman, I. C. Handy, John Moore, George W. Cropsey, and Alanson Moore. The evidence may be briefly synopsized as follows: City Engineer George F. Key, in charge of the construction of the sewers, testified that the curbing was of the kind generally used in constructing sewers, and was used by his advice. The curbirig was of two-inch planks, with inch boards driven vertically. They had been troubled with quicksand all along, but he didn't notice any quicksand at the point of the accident. It seemed to be common buildingsand. At the time the accident occurred he was in the trench thirty-five or forty feet from it, with his back turned. Sunday morning and again on Sunday afternoon he had carefully inspected the trench throughout its entire length minutely. So far as he could see the trench' was in a sound condition. Monday we were getting in a bad place, some Ififty feet from the place of the accident. He was laying tile himself at I the point he considered very gerous. When he inspected he saw that the jackscrews were tight anc whether there were any hollows bacl of the crib. The boards should be driven down six inches below the bottom of the trench. George Henry was doing what we cali the bottoming, grading for the tile Richard Supple was engaged in driving down curbing. It was the duty of Henry to see that the board were driven down properly. There were at least forty or fifty men working. They had just got by what he considered the dangerou place. He had passed the point o the cave in, every few minutes al day, had observed no danger. Judg ing from what the men told him the sand came down, not up, George Henry called for a board and pu the end in the hole telling Supple to drive it in. The first stroke Supple gave, the sand began to pour in. If a tittle sand gets startec more follows. The entire heft o; the sand came down. The east side of the bank settled. That slanted the screws. It was done like a snap of his finger. He didn't know as there was any way of stopping i after the plank had been driven in If he had been at this point, he should have striven to put plank in horizontally instead of vertically. So far as he could judge the acci dent was not caused by any weak ness of the curbing. Heavier boards would not have saved it. Prof. Charles E. Greene, consulting engineer, said he was acting in an advisory capacity. He considered the manner of building the curbing safe. He had been along the trench repeatedly. Engineer Key was very attentive to his work. He had been along the trench Monday and found nothing particularly out of the way. He did not think it would have made any difiere nee if planks had been used instead of pine boards. You can't drive a two inch plank in the ground where you can drive an inch board. He was of the opinión that the accident was caused by a hollow back of the curbing caused bythe oozingout of sand under the curbing. Jacob F. Schuh, member of the board of ,+abüc workc, had been giving directions on the sewer. The engineers work had been satisfactory to the board of puble works. He had called the men out of the trench the day before when it looked dangerous. We thought we were in a safe place. The curbing was all up square. He was fifty feet away, but looking at the spot when the accident occurred. They had sand running in at the bottom. They were trying to stop it. Supple struck a blow on the board with i sledge, the bank sank, the screws tipped and all went in. The men rere in between the boards. The nstructions of the eneineer were to keep the boards below the grade. Henry commenced working at his particular work at the time we crossed Ann street. We considered Supple one of the best men we had. It was 'nis business to drive down the boards and Henry's business to see that the boards were properlydriven. Mr. Schuh's opinión of the cause of the cave in, was the same as Mr. Key's and Prof. Greene's. Charles Cunningham, engineer, said it was his duty to keep accurate survey of line and see that tile was laid on the line. He had nothing to do with the curbing. Street Commissionr ■ Nelson Sutherland hired the men, kept their time and tried to keep them at work. Henry found no fault with going down in the sewer. He did not consider the point dangerous. He had been right down in the trench through there twenty times that day. He saw nothing that looked as if the sand was going down. He was at the point where the cave in occurred in the trench, probably not more than ten minutes before it occurred. The men at work all understood that the bottom board had to be kept down. We considered that the dangerous point had been passed. Alexander Schloup, a laborer in the sewer was sixteen feet from the men killed, He did not consider it particularly dangerous. He came within two feet of beingcovered up. Some one hollered and up he went. The curbing in his opinión was not strong enough. Only inch boards were used. A whole load came down back of the curbing. The more hammering done, the more sand came down. He told man on platform to teil them to get boards. He saw a hole where the cave in occurred. Saw Schuh but did not say anything to him about it. Planks were too short where cave in occurred. Cari Bruch was working in the sewer. It was his business to en the screws. It was the custom to look at the screws morning, noon and night. He examined the screws at this point Monday morning and afternoon. Everyting looked all straight. There were no broken boards. Patrick Reid, s'team fitter, was laying the tile fifteen feet from where the accident occurred. He was watching the sand come out, saw the board hit, heard a crash, and started to get out. We had gotten by what we considered the dangerous point. He heard the sand running and turned around to look. The two men were a little ahead of where the sand ran in. They turned around and came back, and started to put in a board. Hugh McGuire was a spectator on the edge of the sewer within three feet of the cave-in. Water had been running in pretty rapidly. He had remarked to spectators, but not to the bosses, that there was danger of undermining the bank. He saw a couple of barrels full of sand run in, heard tap on board, and heard a crash. The cave-in was over so quickly he couldn't see whether the men made any effort to get out. Fred Sipley, fire chief, described the position of the men when taken out. He judged from their position that they had made an effort to get out of the sewer. Dr. John Kapp examined the bodies of the men killed. He found evidence that George Henrv had been crushed by the curbing. He was most marked on the right side of the head. He found a large triangular scalp wound on Richard Supple's right temple. The skull was fractured externally. The face and eyes were congested. Blood oozed from mouth and nose. The ribs on the right side were f.actured from the second to the eighth rib. The right ankle was fractured. The jury found as their verdict "that George Henry came to his death on the first day of January, 1894, in the city of Ann Arbor, by the accidental caving in of the bank of the sewer on the property of Heinzmann &r Laubengayer, and we further exonérate all parties from any blarae in the matter."


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